A historic church is facing a repair bill of between £20,000 and £30,000 after thieves stripped lead from its roof.
Between 7am on Thursday (March 30) and 7pm on Friday (March 31) thieves gained access to St Peter and St Paul’s Church in Preston by smashing through a wall that surrounds it. They then disabled the building’s alarm and security lights, before making-off with nearly all the lead from the middle section of the roof.
Sheila Ervin, one of the churchwardens at St Peter and St Paul’s, said: “I think it is despicable to treat a place of worship in this way, that has been worshipped in for hundreds of years. It has been desecrated.”
She added: “It is such a lovely old building. It is beautiful, it is Grade II listed and part of it is 12th and 13th century. It is really beautiful - it is such a shame.
“We have a very good clergy and understandably everybody in the village is very upset about it.”
Mrs Ervin added she estimates that the cost of replacing the lead on the roof could be between £20,000 and £30,000.
The iron gate at the church’s main entrance was locked at the time of the burglary .
In order to gain access to the churchyard, thieves broke a fence in a field next to the church before crossing it and then broke a wall which surrounds the building.
Mrs Ervin said residents who live in the rectory of the church thought they heard a noise around 2am in the early hours of Monday but did not investigate because they thought that they imagined it, as the security lights and alarm were not activated.
Mrs Evin said: “They thought they heard something, but because the security light had been cut and the alarm didn’t go off, they did not suspect that something was happening.”
It is the third time in three years that thieves have stolen lead from different sections of the roof.
In 2014 thieves stripped the lead off the northern section of the roof and in 2015, most of the lead from the southern section was taken.
Despite the thieves leaving the building susceptible to water damage, normal services at the church will continue thanks to Gunthorpe based builders, Crewyard Construction Company, which secured tarpaulin to the roof on Monday morning after church officials alerted them to what had happened and asked for help.
Mrs Ervin praised the builders for their actions and said that the thieves would not stop the church from operating.
She said: “They cannot stop it, a thing that has been going on for hundreds of years. Services are going to go on.”
If anyone has information about the incident call police on 101 and quote reference number 17*/135/391